I have to admit that Dusseldorf actually wasn’t all that great. In fact it was pretty annoying. Half the reason that I came here was because it happened to be the butt of a lot of jokes from Hogans Heroes, probably because the name sounded rather amusing. Another thing was that Dusseldorf seemed to sit right in the middle of a cluster of towns and cities and a part of me wanted to explore parts of what appeared to be a mega-city. Since there didn’t seem to be all that much here I decided that we would only spend a couple of nights and then move on to our next destination. However, upon arriving I discovered that not much turned out to be very little – particularly since half of the interesting places, such as the Ship Museum, were closed (and the Stadtmuseum didn’t allow us to take photos).
Anyway, the annoyances started off when we exited the railway station to discover that it was raining, and it was that really annoying sort of rain that is what you get in Melbourne – drizzle that eventually leaves you really wet. Fortunately our hotel was just around the corner, so we went inside to be told that checkin wasn’t until three o’clock, and while we could leave our bags in the locker room, we had to basically head outside and wander around in the rain for about four hours. So, we found ourselves out the front of the railway station, in the drizzling rain, with trams passing by, wondering what to do. One thing we didn’t do though was catch a tram (though we did film a couple of them). Instead we went for a walk to look for the Cathedral.
Which ended up to be shut – or at least not letting anybody inside (though it might not have been the Cathedral, but I couldn’t find any other place that sort of fit the description of a cathedral). So, with the rain still drizzling down, and carrying what was a very broken umbrella – actually I didn’t even have my umbrella, I had left it in the bags back at the hotel – we continued wandering around until I found a coffee shop attached to the Galleria (which is basically a huge department store – though they call it a Kaufhaus), where I ended up grabbing a half decent coffee and sort of allowed myself to dry off. Mind you, we then went back into the rain and made our way towards Carlsplatz (and passed through another shopping centre, where we once again discovered that annoying habit of Europeans to charge people to use the toilet, but then again they do that in England as well – which makes me wonder what people do when they don’t have any small change on them – I was forced to buy something that I really didn’t want because the store keeper refused to change my money).
Into the Altstadt
Actually, one thing that I almost forgot to do was to embed a map of Dusseldorf into the post because I’m sure you all want to see what I am actually talking about (even though I have simply been carrying on about how wet and miserable it was, and the fact that my brother really didn’t want to wonder around in the rain).
There was one thing that I noticed as I exited the shopping center (and despite me believing that it was something else, as it turned out it was just a boring old shopping centre that I seem to see heaps of back in Australia) was that there was what looked like a moat running past us. Actually, this stretch of water was probably once a moat, and there would have been a wall on the otherside, which obviously isn’t there anymore, namely because Napoleon forced the inhabitants to knock it down (though I don’t think he went around capturing each of the cities individually – he simply knocked the armies out on the battlefields and the individual cities basically surrended to him, though since Germany the time was a collection of principalities and city states, the princes would have each had their own opinions of Napoleon).
Anyway, after we crossed the moat and headed into the Altstadt (heading in the right direction this time, namely because earlier we headed in the wrong direction, namely towards would is best described as the entertainment district, which I will get to in a short while). However, as we were making around way towards the Carlsplatz I did pass a bar called The Monopoly Bar, and made a mental note to visit it at a later time, though I eventually didn’t bother, particularly since by the time I decided to visit it I was way too tired and instead wanted to go back to the hotel and go to sleep. We did eventually arrive at Carlsplatz, though it turned out that it was another market place where people would all come and set up stalls and sell local produce. Look, there are plenty of similar markets in Australia, though I have to admit that there certainly was some really nice looking cheese there (and my Bible study group were also quite envious of it as well).
After wandering around Carlsplatz for a bit we made our way to the Marktplatz which, unlike the Carlsplatz, was empty. The main reason I came here was to see the Altes Rathaus (the Old Town Hall), which looked pretty cool, and also had a pretty cool statue in the middle of the square. Mind you, despite the fact that it is called the Marktplatz (which suggests that this is where the market stalls should be), the place was empty. Maybe it has a lot to do with the Carlsplatz being a lot better. Anyway, at least the architecture looked pretty cool, as did the Altes Rathaus.
Wandering Along the Rhine
So, it was thus time to head down to the Rhine promenade which, as you have probably worked out, is a promenade that runs along the Rhine. Well, it turned out that the promenade wasn’t all that spectacular, particularly since the weather was so horrible. Sure, looking across the Rhine, and the flood plains, we could see some pretty cool houses, though the horrible weather basically meant that the view wasn’t all that fantastic. Oh, and either side of the Altstadt there were some really large bridges (as well as barges traversing the river) that pretty much looked the same (though one of them did have the occasional tram heading over it). Well, they did have some restaurants set up on what effectively was a board walk, however these restaurants really didn’t come across as seeming all that German.
So, we wondered up the promenade, and back down again (and at one point we even got as close to the bridge as we could possibly get, and took a video of one of the trams, which happened to be a high-floor tram, heading across it), and then went and grabbed some lunch at a restaurant that wasn’t really all that cheap, and the food not all that fantastic (though I wasn’t particularly hungry at the time, but I really don’t like leaving food because I’m one of those people that doesn’t like making it seem obvious that I don’t like the food, at least when I’m in the restaurant, though when I leave, and jump onto Yelp, then I have absolutely no issue with that).
I probably should say a few things about the trams (though they are probably no different to what I said about the trams in Bonn, or even Köln), and that is that there are two types – low floors and high floors. The thing that I noticed is that the low floors seem to spend most on their time trundling around the streets, while the high floors tend to trundle through tunnels under the the city. Come to think of it I only ever caught the trams that went underground as opposed to the trams that trundled along the streets (and once again I didn’t see any place in Dusseldorf where you had to perform a hook-turn, which makes me wonder whether German drivers are smarter around trams than Australian drivers, though having driven in Germany I do have to admit that you still have idiots on the road). Actually I did catch some of the low-floors, but that was to get to the Zoopark.
All this talk about trams brings me to the issue of ticket inspectors. Gee that job must suck, which means I hope they get paid a decent amount, though there are lots of jobs out there where you basically cop abuse all day and get paid absolute peanuts for the pleasure (which suggests that people are willing to take a job where they have to cop abuse, thus forcing the wages down). I had an unfortunate run in with a ticket inspector because, well, being a tourist I didn’t know how the tickets worked – I just bought one at the machine and sat down. Little did I know that I was supposed to stick them in a machine on the tram. Well, ignorance of the law is definately no excuse because they still wanted to issue me with a fine (which even though they used the German word – Strafzettel – I knew exactly what they meant) as well as holding onto my passport, which is something I also don’t appreciate.
Mind you, I wasn’t the only person they nabbed, because they spent ten minutes arguing with another person before getting to me, but they eventually relented and let me off with a warning. However it did seem that in Europe you had to carry your ID card everywhere, though I remember when they attempted to introduce a similar thing here in Australia the Liberals went up in arms over it (though wouldn’t have second thoughts about introducing a similar thing when they were in power). Mind you, that is because they are in opposition, and these days opposition isn’t opposition, it is obstructionist, but then again oppositions have always been obstructionist.
Museums and Parks
One thing I learnt pretty quickly was not to get my brother’s hopes up too much. Well, okay, he does eventually get over disappointments, and wasn’t too upset that we missed out on seeing the fishes down at Königswinter, but half the reason was because I told him that we would go and see the Zoo in Dusseldorf, namely because there was a park called the Zoopark. Well, it turns out that the reason it was called the Zoopark was because, sometime in the past, it was a zoo, but it’s not any more – it’s just a park. Upon realising this, and also coming to conclusions that assumptions are the mother of all stuffups, we simply walked around the lake, and I cheered him up a bit by pointing out that even though it technically wasn’t a zoo, there were still birds around the lake, so he could take some heart in that.
We also wandered down to the train line where we watched a couple of trains head into, and out of, the Hauptbahnhof.
Then it started raining again, which was quite annoying, but at least there was a bus shelter we could stand under while waiting for a tram to take us back into the city, where we ended up once again on the banks of the Rhine, and also discovered that the Ship Museum was closed for rennovations (though the Stadtmuseum was open, but we saw that the previous day, and what was even better was that it was happy hour, which meant that we go in for free, not that that was a huge issue for us anyway).
The Zoopark wasn’t the only park that we decided to go and have a wander through the Hofgarten, particularly since it seemed to have a bit of heritage about it. The problem was that it was raining, and wandering through a park isn’t really one of the best activities to do while it is raining. The other thing was that I simply looked at it on Google Maps, but didn’t do all that much research beyond that – sure, I knew it was old (and according to the Wikipedia page, which is in German by the way – there isn’t an English translation – it dates back to the 12th Century), but that was about it – as far as I was concerned it was just a park, and an old one at that. However, after I got back to Australia, I discovered that it actually has lots of statues in it, though I only found a couple. As for Google Maps, the only thing that it pointed out was the Ratinger Tor, which is basically a couple of buildings on either side of the road.
Another thing that I discovered upon arriving back in Australia was that Dusseldorf does actually have a fine arts museum – all we ended up finding was a modern art museum. Okay, the museum itself wasn’t bad, but it was full of contemporary art, which was a little disappointing. Okay, we didn’t pay through the nose to wander around inside, but I prefer my classic sculptures and paintings as opposed to the more modern, and weird, renditions. Actually, there appeared to be two modern art museums on opposite sides of the road – we just randomly picked one, or moreso I had my brother randomly pick one – he did miss out on the non-existent zoo, and the ship museum, so I felt I should give him a choice as to which modern art museum we visited.
Where there are Irish
The one thing that stood out about Dusseldorf is the number of Irish Pubs that were all squeezed into a small area. Actually, about 90% of the bars are squeezed into this one city block (though there is a street that runs down the middle, so it is technically two city blocks). Anyway, that was one thing I loved about the city, not that it would resurrect it from the fact that other than these bars there wasn’t all that much here. The funny thing was that there were a fair number of Irish bars – six of them to be precise (or was it seven), and one of these I ended up visiting three times, namely because of a really friendly waitress who was there once and never again. Actually, that was one interesting thing about these Irish pubs: when they were speaking German I thought they were, well, German, but as soon as they started speaking English I suddenly picked the Irish/British/American accents. At one point I did quite pick up a strange accent when one of them was speaking German, but generally my ability to understand German is atrocious.
We ended up having lunch here, at a Gasthaus (or pub) called Zum Schlussel (to the key?), and ended up trying some Sauerkraut. The funny thing was that it took me a bit to finally get around to having lunch at a Gasthaus, despite the fact that I was in Germany and wanted to eat at German restaurants. Well, these Gasthause only started to appear when we hit Cologne – they didn’t seem to be in Frankfurt or Mainz – they just had bars. Okay, there was one in the Romerplatz, but to me that was just a pub (and the other Gasthause I went to I just had a beer, though one of them seemed to think that one doesn’t come to a Gasthaus just to have a beer, you come for a meal – if you want a beer you go to a bar).
The final thing I should mention is that alongside the Irish Bars there were some really cool dive bars. Well, I probably should call them grunge bars because some people seem to consider dive bars as being a place that no self respecting person would find themselves in. Mind you, the term is probably interchangeable – no it’s not; now that I think of it I wouldn’t be caught dead in a Dive Bar, so I guess I will refer to those cool heavy metal ones as grunge bars. Anyway, there was one, the Auberge which was nothing short of awesome. The funny thing was that while inside it was really grungy, everybody was outside smoking cigarettes. In my mind it seemed to be a complete waste of a good bar – if you were going to smoke there were plenty of other places where you could do that, this bar seemed to be one for the atmosphere.